Defending French Open champion Li Na was knocked out in the fourth round by qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova.
Li, the first Asian to win a tennis Grand Slam singles title, lost to the 142nd-ranked Shvedova of Kazakhstan, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 on a windy day at Roland Garros.
Li has struggled since last year’s French Open win, which turned her into the highest earner in tennis after Maria Sharapova. She lost in the second round of Wimbledon last June, the opening round of the U.S. Open in August and the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.
In an interview in Rome last month, Li said it had taken her six months to get used to her new status.
While Chinese women had won Olympic gold and Grand Slam titles in doubles, Li Na’s defeat of Italy’s Francesca Schiavone in last year’s French Open final broke the country’s singles drought. Her victory was watched by 116 million viewers in China.
Li Na’s third round match two days was watched by 50 million people in China, according to French Open organizers.
Shvedova also made the quarterfinals in 2010. Her win means she’ll rise to around No. 62 in the rankings, putting her in contention for a spot on her country’s Olympic team. The 24-year-old, a former doubles Wimbledon champion, missed most of last year because of injury.
Li’s exit comes after a week of upsets in the women’s draw. Thirteen-time major singles champion Serena Williams lost in the first round to France’s Virginie Razzano, the American’s first defeat at that stage of a major in her career.
Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland was knocked out in the third round by former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia. And yesterday, women’s top seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was ousted from the tournament in the fourth round by No. 15 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.